Originally published in Arthur No. 1 (Oct. 2002)
ICE CREAM FOR CROW: In the Shadow of the Valley of the Bomb Pop
Last Notes from the Great Lost Big Lik Expedition
by Eddie Dean, with photography by Dave Brooks
I first discovered the power of a Fudge Bomb when I was surrounded by a family of Blue Ridge Mennonites who hadn’t seen the ice cream truck for a week. All their Fudge Bombs had run out days ago, and their Snow Cones and Chocolate Chump Bars, too. Their sturdy white frame house sat on a hill in Greene County, Virginia, and I was parked before it in my truck, both of us coughing up dust after the long climb up the winding gravel driveway. These people were hurting badly. We were here to help them.
For generations, locals have found this rocky region as poor as a snake. But it’s been a goldmine for interlopers—first the folk-song collectors and then the government men and the social workers and finally the movie stars here for peace of mind and land for their trotting horses. The movie stars didn’t buy ice cream, not off a truck anyway. Just about everybody else did, though. At least, they did back then. This was 20 years ago, before gourmet ice cream and the culture of instant gratification. If you lived in Greene County, the only way you could get a Fudge Bomb was from my truck.
A Fudge Bomb is a brown and yellow “quiescently frozen confection” impaled on a stick and molded in the shape of a Sputnik-era nuclear warhead. It is infused with an equatorial stripe of artificially flavored banana that beads with tropical sweat when unveiled in the July heat by a Mennonite housewife in a gingham dress. At the time I was selling them, a Fudge Bomb cost 60 cents, a crucial dime more than its red-white-and-blue cousin, the Superstar Bomb Pop, but well worth the extra investment. No mere popsicle, a Fudge Bomb is a bona fide meal.
The Mennonites are a strict denomination. For them, every day is a holy day, and they dress and try to behave as such. But there is nothing in their rules that forbids the indulgence of sweets. And no visiting preacher ever inspired more joy than did the driver of the truck with the BIG LIK license plates. I would often linger in the shade as the family members gathered on the green lawn, becalmed by the sacrament of ice cream. The rippling folds of the Blue Ridge mountains stretched to the horizon, as big white clouds drifted by like so many covered wagons. At such a moment of a bright Sunday many summers ago, I understood why their ancestors decided to nestle here instead of pushing west. This perch would do fine until the Battle of Armageddon.
Those were good customers, that family, one of several Mennonite families on the route. They even bought ice cream for their livestock. They had a goat named Curly leashed to a tombstone in the family graveyard, a stone-walled plot near the driveway. His reward for keeping the grass trim was an ice-cream sandwich. The Mennonites were businesspeople themselves. I’d often pass roadside stands where they sold homemade peanut-butter pies to the weekend tourists from Washington D.C. They were better off than most of my customers, who had little in worldly possessions other than the junk accumulated on their ramshackle properties. Yet even the most destitute were no less faithful when that ice-cream bell came ringing. For them, the unbidden arrival of the BIG LIK truck was proof that even if they weren’t among the affluent or the righteous, they would not be denied their just desserts–even if it meant scraping together a fistful of pennies for a 25-cent popsicle.
Behind the wheel of BIG LIK, in the shadow of the hazy, hallucinatory Blue Ridge, I believed I’d found my calling, though at 20 I would have never used such a word. All I knew was that it didn’t seem like work and it beat delivering pizza in a borrowed car. What began as a seasonal job during my time at the University of Virginia held me in Charlottesville well after graduation. It wasn’t driving the truck that hooked me: I fell for the geography. I’d grown up in the lowland Piedmont of Richmond, and there was something about this rugged landscape that moved me. Whatever the reason, the mountains cast a spell that I couldn’t shake.
It was naïve, to be sure. Nonetheless, I knew in my gut that I was lucky to gain passage on this route, the only one of its kind in the history of the Shenandoah Valley, and perhaps in the entire United States. It was a foolhardy expedition from the start. No sane businessman would have even considered it, much less actually attempted it. The meandering circuit was carved out of the ridges and hollows three decades ago by hippie entrepreneurs who didn’t know any better. (One later worked for a spell as a Wall Street commodities broker.) The route survived until the late ‘80s, and it was during those twilight years when I drove the truck.
I worked for a two-vehicle renegade independent without allegiance to the corporate-owned fleets that dominate the industry. My truck was a converted ’71 GMC step van weighted down by a lead-lined, coffin-sized freezer. On the filthy, battered exterior, a painted tin plate promised “Happy Time Ice Cream.” The truck was customized well beyond the BIG LIK tags, down to a Radio Shack cassette tape deck and a photo of a stoned Sly Stone above the rear-view mirror. Sly sported a floppy, rhinestone-studded pimp’s hat and an ultra-baked expression of grim weariness that gave warning to all who would pursue the perpetual buzz.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, sayeth William Blake, and Sly was our road-wizened guru. More than that, he was our very own orisha, our guardian spirit against the highway patrol, our patron saint of Hot Fun And Weird Shit In The Summertime. He was also the source of countless queries from customers demanding to know who in the hell he was. The ‘60s counterculture was little more than a rumor in these parts. If you said Woodstock, you were talking about a town off Lee Highway where the only long-hairs were a breed of pig. The heroes around here were bad dudes on TV who drove fast and talked trash and kicked ass: Richard Petty and Wahoo McDaniel and Mr. T and the Dukes of Hazzard.
The county routes, as we called them, traversed the farthest reaches of Greene and Page counties, southern Appalachian outbacks little changed since the Depression. Just two hours drive from the nation’s capital, it was a world’s away in every other respect. No maps of the routes exist except the one in my head. The journey began near an abandoned woolen mill in Charlottesville and ended 12 hours later and a hundred miles away in a synthesia of smoldering asbestos brake pads and melted Dreamsicles on the hot floorboard steps. It was a grueling ride for the driver and eventually a money drain for the company, but the route gave a taste of a bygone era when hauling ice cream by truck lived up to its mythic status as a vital American ritual.
At the time, the ice cream truck was still a unifying force that transcended class lines and social status: The haves and the have-nots alike hailed down BIG LIK for a quick fix. Besides the county routes, there were the town and city routes, our big moneymakers. The town route included some well-to-do suburbs where some people patronized the truck every so often for the kick of some half-remembered nostalgia. They deemed it proper parenting to make selections for their kids: ice-cream sandwiches and “healthy” items. Like the children, who craved adventurous fare like cherry Screwballs and Elephant Ears, I despised these parents for their well-meaning stupidity.
The most lucrative stops on the town and city runs were in the poorer neighborhoods, where dogs and kids roamed unsupervised. From May until past Halloween, we trolled these anarchic projects and trailer parks every day of the week, sometimes twice a day, as ubiquitous as the cops and the drug dealers. Some parents decided we were another Pusherman on the prowl; one irate mother yanked the arm of a BIG LIK passenger to check for needle marks. For many children, the constant dose of Bomb Pops really did become an ugly habit. Some groveled and begged for a freebie, ice cream smeared on their angry, squinched faces. I couldn’t much blame them, because it was our relentless hard sell that fed their addiction.
Even so, BIG LIK provided balm when needed. Once, on the edge of the town route, not far from the house of a devout female customer who had the same sprout of chin whiskers you see in photos of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, I came upon a cat writhing in the hot tar road, struck down moments before the truck rolled up. A man appeared from a nearby house and identified the dying animal. He went back home and returned carrying a pistol. As his daughter and her friends stood by shrieking, he walked a few paces off the road behind some bramble. One shot rang out, and another. Then he ambled over to the truck and bought a Snow Cone for his daughter.
Next to the mercenary grind of the city and town routines, the county routes were a revelation. A few miles outside Charlottesville, the manicured, fenced-in spreads of gentrified horse farms gave way to the great wide-open of hardcore ice cream country. Heading west of Ruckersville on Route 33, I welcomed the sight of the hog pens and the coops for fighting chickens and rusted cars half-buried in the ground. These were the tell-tale signs of serious ice-cream customers. Some houses were strictly for shelter and barely that. One family, faithful and longtime patrons, resided in an abandoned school bus parked permanently a few feet off the road.
Out in these green hills and dark hollows, the people were always happy to see BIG LIk. For generations, most outsiders seen in these parts came only to plunder. In 1916 and 1918, British musicologist Cecil Sharp made several trips to the area, collecting folk songs that had survived for centuries. These were bloody murder ballads and ditties about dead babies and assorted domestic tragedies. From Florence Puckett he got “The Shooting of His Dear,” and “The Cuckoo”; from Horton Barker came “Hares of The Mountains,” and from Leila Yowell, “The Farmer’s Curst Wife.” From Lizzie Gibson, who Sharp recalled as “a fine woman and regular type of mountaineer who sang very well,” he got “Pretty Saro” and “Earl Brand.” Sharp collected hundreds of tunes, many dating back to Elizabethan times, and published them in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians.
At first locals had taken Sharp for a German spy, but it was their own government who proved to be the enemy. In the ‘30s, federal authorities evicted hundreds of mountain families to make way for the newly created Shenandoah National Park, the so-called “Playground for Washingtonians.” Popular opinion of the time had little sympathy for their plight. Some Blue Ridgers did not leave willingly. It took four deputies to arrest Melancthon Cliser, a 62-year-old gas station owner. Evicted from his house, with his wife, dog and possessions dumped on the roadside, Cliser delivered a quavering rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as he was handcuffed and taken to jail. Before it was over, authorities had conducted a forced removal that left century-old homesteads in charred ruins. Some of my customers were among the displaced, and they still lived in the shabby prefab houses the government built for them in resettlement areas. Not a few carried a bitterness against the feds that time only deepened. It was probably just as well they didn’t know that our ice cream came from a wholesale supplier in Washington.
So BIG LIK was something altogether new here, an intruder come to peddle instead of pillage. We came only once or twice a week, so they never got tired of us. On the county routes, politeness was the rule, and the barter system was often in effect. A carton of watermelon-flavored Italian ice for a fresh mulberry pie; a Chipwich for a clay-encrusted can of Pabst Blue Ribbon buried for God knows how long in some secret hiding place. They bestowed their own names on favorite items. A Nutty Buddy was a drumstick, an Eskimo Pie a chocolate cover, and a Neapolitan ice-cream sandwich a Napoleon.
The locals showed a genuine concern for the truck’s well being. They sympathized with its dilapidated condition and greeted a flat tire with the swift attention of those who know what it is to be in need. The men who helped with a tow or a tool kit refused any offers of free ice cream as thanks. They were poor but fiercely proud, and they were quick to forgive as well. One BIG LIK driver got his kicks swerving at jaywalking animals instead of around them. Wild or domesticated, all God’s creatures were potential road kill to him. The owner of a dog run down by this assassin had only a stern reprimand for the driver the next time through: “You could have at least cleaned it up.”
Some events could never be forgotten, even if they happened more than a century ago. One man stopped patronizing the truck after he discovered that a driver was a descendant of Union officer in the Civil War. You often hear how mountain people refused to fight for the South, but around here they did, and they remembered. The town of Earlysville was named for Rebel General Jubal Early, and battle reenactments were part of the local social calendar. The Shenandoah Valley, the Breadbasket of the Confederacy, was a crucial strategic stronghold during the war. Our route followed many of the same mountain passes where Stonewall Jackson’s troops zig-zagged on the all-night marches that so beleagured the Yanks.
Out here, the ice-cream bell was no mere prop but a signal I depended on when I entered a hollow. The sound of the electric bell hung in the air for miles around, alerting customers of my arrival. (Once, the far-flung ringing wooed a calf that mistook the sound for its mother, broke free from a fenced field, and followed a half-mile.) Leaning hard on the bell, I would make a high-speed run to the dead end of a hollow where the state road hits gravel. On the ride back out, my customers waited in anxious clumps, sometimes three generations strong—maybe an inquisitive rooster or two scratching up some dust behind them. They stood next to battered mailboxes with handscrawled names: Morris, Roach, Shifflett. That last surname was by far the most prevalent in the region. There must have been several hundred members of this clan in every nook and cranny of the upper Blue Ridge. The Shiffletts spelled their name every conceivable way, but they all liked ice cream.
I liked ice cream, too. It was free for us drivers, but it had its price. The 12-hour route meant a steady intake of Bomb Pops and Chump Bars and and barbecue chips, washed down with six-packs of sodas. The resulting highs and lows were a damning indictment of the dangers of processed sugar. The debilitating effects were tempered by the music that was my constant companion.
I was fortunate in this regard, because I had access to a record library that rivaled any I had ever seen. It belonged to my friend Robert Hull, a writer for Creem during its heyday who I met at the campus radio station I’d met at the campus radio station where we were disc jockeys. A Memphis native, he lived and breathed music and literature, and he was a mentor at a time when I was first discovering Melville and the Mekons. One summer I needed a place to stay, so I camped for a spell at Robert’s house, the truck’s freezer kept humming overnight via an extension cord strung through a kitchen window.
Robert’s stash of vinyl was arranged with an archivist’s care in a small corner room of his duplex. The shrine was presided over by a life-size poster of Carlene Carter in a fringe mini skirt and cowboy boots, an icon that impressed me almost as much as the collection itself. These were the days before CD reissues, and here was a gloryhold of out-of-print, impossible-to-find gems: Skip Spence’s Oar, Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger, Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis, Swamp Dogg’s Total Destruction To Your Mind, James Brown’s Thinking of Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things, and Lester “Roadhog” Moran and The Cadillac Cowboys’ Alive at Johnny Mack Brown High School. I made tapes for heavy rotation on the truck’s cassette deck.
Oar became a favorite on the route. Everything about it fascinated me, from the cryptic note on the back cover (“Dedication: Olga”) to the album’s legendary backstory. Recovering from a breakdown, Spence wrote the songs during a lengthy stay at Bellevue’s psychiatric ward. Upon his release, he hopped a motorcycle down to Nashville, where he recorded the material in several fevered sessions, playing all the instruments himself. The music, a side-trip of cracked C&W, deeply skewed blues, and backwoods pyschedelia, was equal parts Old Testament, the I-Ching, and Gene Autry, varied enough to sustain the ever-changing geography and mood swings of the marathon route. “Little Hands,” with its refrain of “children singing and pipers piping” perfectly captured the bushy-tailed promise of the opening stops when the morning dew still lingered in the shade. “Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin for Yang)” and “Lawrence of Euphoria” went well with a lunch of Fruity Patooty Bomb Pops. Later, when the sun dropped behind a ridge and shut off the light in some far hollow close by an old Mennonite cemetery, “Cripple Creek” or “Books of Moses” would clang out and I could hear the dogs get to howling.
One of Robert’s records became a sort of BIG LIK anthem, and to my mind remains the greatest ice-cream truck-driving song of all time. Rockin’ Sidney’s “My Toot Toot” was a home demo recorded by the zydeco veteran in his bedroom studio. In the summer of ’84, it broke as a national hit and was everywhere, including BIG LIK’s tape deck. Like some Trenchtown mobile flatbed sound system blasting the latest dub side in the Jamaican countryside, I cranked “Toot Toot” extra-loud for my customers, bringing a taste of the Louisiana bayou to the southern Appalachians. Not once did anyone tell me to turn it down, and, really, who but the most cold-hearted could resist its charm? One of the most infectious novelty dance tunes to ever feature a drum machine, “Toot Toot” was tailor-made for a sputtering rig like BIG LIK. The cheapo drum machine’s clunky beat mimicked the truck’s lurching automatic drive, and Rockin’ Sidney’s Creole interjections somehow emboldened the tired engine on steep climbs, the way a rider urges on a stubborn nag.
Overall, though, it was bluegrass that proved the most nourishing sustenance on the route. Robert had plenty of the mossy old records of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, and the Stanley Brothers. This countryside was not much different than the one that inspired Carter Stanley’s “The White Dove,” composed on a pre-dawn drive heading home from a show in the ‘50s: “In the deep rolling hills of old Virginia, there’s a place I love so well.”
The beauty of the land spoiled me as surely as did the free ice cream. The variety of vistas, from roadside cliffs strung with kudzu beards to boulder-strewn, stubbled fields, seemed infinite. Sometimes a thunderstorm would dance across a valley half-lit by a blazing sun, and the scampering downpour reeled off a succession of rainbows I would chase but never catch. And always the Blue Ridge framed the view, with humble names like Brokenback Mountain, old as the continent. These were no majestic peaks to conquer, but worn-down, welcoming hills to burrow into.
My boss refused to bother with the county routes, which he’d inherited when he bought the business. His pride and joy was the one he developed, the highly profitable city route, the twice-a-day circuit through Charlottesville’s poorest neighborhoods. He usually spent the off-season globe-trotting in exotic realms such as India and Tibet, taking photos of Buddhist monks and their prayer flags high in the Eastern sky. I would tell him he was missing out on some mystical terrain right in his own backyard. The Blue Ridge had its own ancient spirits, even if they lacked the faintest whiff of patchouli.
One of the drivers, Dave Brooks, understood my affinities. He was raised in Bath County near the West Virginia line, so he was no stranger to the mountains. It was Brooks who taught me the county routes, and his enthusiasm for the people and places stoked my youthful enthusiasm. He truly loved the Greene and Page runs, and he drove them more often than any other driver. It was only years later that I discovered that Brooks had been documenting the routes with his camera.
Looking at his photos nearly two decades hence, I can remember every face, though I never knew their names and they didn’t know mine. The photos remind me how sharply the bucolic setting contrasted with the dire poverty of the locals. They came to the truck barefoot and bandaged and black-eyed, in threadbare clothes and in metal curlers. They rarely displayed jewelry of any kind—instead a necklace of fresh red hickeys on the pale neck of a teenage girl, or the raw insect bites on the spindly, hairy legs of some crone with an unfiltered Camel smoldering in her sun-blistered lips as she counted out pennies for a popsicle, or the hardened scab on the bloodshot, bulbous nose of an old farmer who always received his purchase on a cast-iron skillet. The geezer said the ice cream was too cold for his gnarled, trembling hands. It was obvious many of the children were hungry for more than ice cream, and when the adults would flash a gap-toothed smile, I could see the years of Bomb Pops had done their work.
For friends who joined me on the route, this scenario could make for some unsettling encounters. Those expecting to meet the Waltons were in for a rude awakening; the amount of roadkill alone proved daunting enough for some. Not long into the journey, they quietly put away their cameras and huddled in a corner away from the sales window when the customers clamored around. Others used chemicals to try to commiserate with the surroundings. One day-tripper ate some psychedelic mushrooms along with his Bomb Pop. Somewhere outside Earlysville, he said he needed some fresh air and bolted from the truck as it rounded a curve.
As for myself, I got used to the hard lot of the BIG LIK customers. After a long day on the truck, I didn’t spend much time pondering the harsh economic conditions. One of the drivers said we were exploiting these people, but I couldn’t see the injustice. All I saw was my customers happy to see the truck every week, grateful that somebody hadn’t forgotten them. I’d take my cut of grimy, sweat-stained bills from the money box, buy a six-pack of Black Label, and give thanks that I didn’t have to work a real job. For me, the county route was a paid adventure that I knew wouldn’t last, so I relished it.
The truck gave me entry into places otherwise off-limits to outsiders. Bacon Hollow abutted the Appalachian Trail and the Shenandoah National Park. It was poor and insular even by Greene County standards, shunned by most beer-drinking Christians. Bacon Hollow earned its reputation as a place unfriendly to strangers, especially the county social workers meddling in their domestic affairs.
They had their own way of talking in Bacon Hollow. They had their own ways, period. It was not uncommon to see crude effigies nailed to trees. In the late ‘70s, a driver got embroiled in a local family feud when a Shifflett gunned down a Morris. He’d recently had a run-in with this same Shifflett, who had invited him to join a roadside corn-liquor party. “If you don’t have a drink with us,” he said, “You ain’t getting out of the hollow this evening.” The driver thought it wise to be polite and partake. The victim’s family wanted him to testify as a character witness in the trial. His refusal to take sides earned him death threats and the enmity of both clans. He was forced to quit the route lest he become another casualty.
Bacon Hollow hadn’t changed a whit by the time I came through. Here you might get a kid paying with a swiped jarful of old rare coins, and you’d accept the money even if it probably meant he’d get a whipping. Sometimes, pranksters would set out boards with nails to give drivers an obstacle course on the way out. One homestead boasted fearsome-looking deer antlers on its porch roof. Like many of the houses here, it lay across a creek from the main road. To get to it, you had to cross a rickety bridge, and there was always some sort of gathering that could number a couple dozen revelers. But there was never a problem. The exiled driver notwithstanding, BIG LIK was always welcome here, and on a good day this was a $100 hollow. It was a prime example of how the best customers were inevitably the ones who could least afford it.
More ice-cream hotbeds were over in Page County. An off-shoot that included a chunk of the Greene route, this route was typically a Sunday run that pushed further north into the valley. Brown Hollow was an all-black enclave with a baseball field dug out of a hillside with a backhoe. The players, ranging from kids to stooping grayhairs, were arrayed in their Sunday best, coats off and shirtsleeves rolled up. Upon hearing the bell, they’d stop the game, and for a half-hour, BIG LIK was the center of the commumnity.
On the county routes, the ice cream truck really mattered to people and they responded in kind, with courtesy and heartfelt thanks. Out here, the sins of the city and town routes were redeemed. Out here, the ritual hadn’t gone rotten. There was still room for magic, like when I’d reach into the freezer and toss a handful of ice shavings at a group of toddlers—a little touch of snow in summer.
As it turns out, the BIG LIK expedition wasn’t able to pay its own way. The truck simply couldn’t take the hairpin curves and billy-goat slopes anymore. Barreling back across Swift Run Gap with an empty freezer, the top-heavy rig was always nearly out of control. With a few beers and the high altitude going to my head, I’d ride the brakes hard and BIG LIK would howl like some beast of burden in pain. Eventually our mechanic, Race, had to install new brake pads and other replacement parts every couple weeks. The truck rarely grossed more than $300, and my 25-percent take wasn’t much after you added up the hours.
And so, by the end of the ‘80s, the county routes vanished, gone the way of traveling medicine shows and knife peddlers and professional hoboes. Even before its demise, I had already returned to Richmond. Several bad omens helped hasten my retirement. Coming back from Greene County at dark, I ran over a black cat a block from the boss’s house, where we usually kept the trucks. My driving record was spotless until then, but that didn’t matter much to the pet’s owners. Not long after, I backed the truck into a dogwood in my boss’ yard, damaging the truck and the state tree of Virginia.
* * *
A few years ago, I paid a visit to ice cream country. With the exception of the more remote places like Bacon Hollow, I found the area changed almost beyond recognition. Hordes of middle-class and the newly rich had fled the suburbs to join celebrity homesteaders like Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek in the promised land. They had satellite dishes and spacious tract houses and, no doubt, refrigerators full of grocery-store gourmet ice cream.
The transformation was as sad as it was inevitable. No doubt the poorest of my former customers, like those in Bacon Hollow, were stranded more than ever before, left further and further behind by the tide of prosperity flooding the mountains. BIG LIK wouldn’t be much help to them now. No amount of Bomb Pops could bridge the ever-widening gap.
It was a writing project that brought me back, a story on the displaced mountain people. My old route beckoned me deeper into the Blue Ridge, and I found myself parked in front of one of the regular stops. It was a cold, gray winter day, and the scene was bleak. I barely recognized the house without its usual curtain of green vegetation. It was now revealed as the bare shack it was, not a drape on a window, no smoke curling from the stone chimney. At first, I thought maybe the place was abandoned. Where were the strutting chickens and the yapping dogs? Most important, where were the kids who’d clamored for BIG LIK so many years ago?
Then I spotted a couple of gangly teens behind the house, taking turns on a cigarette. They said when they were younger, they were customers of the truck. But ice cream didn’t interest them anymore. They were standing in the bitter mountain air, they explained, because it was even colder inside the house. The firewood had run out that morning. We had a laugh recalling some favorites from the truck; they said they were hooked on Screwballs, cherry-flavored ice crammed into a clear plastic cone and packed with bubblegum at the bottom. I have watched many a wild-eyed kid chuck the whole thing to get to that buried treasure.
A beat-up Honda compact pulled up into the dirt driveway and whimpered to a stop. A woman emerged in untied high-top sneakers, a thin, faded coat thrown over her nightgown. She had soft, prematurely graying hair bundled over her worry-lined face. It was the boys’ mother. She told them to get the firewood out of the trunk—some pine scraps from a nearby lumberyard. She said she remembered the ice-cream truck, but it hadn’t come by for years. That was the least of her worries. She had recently been laid off from her job at the textile mill, and somebody had burned down the old family home over on Hightop Mountain.
She watched her sons carry the scraps into the house: “Those boys loved that ice cream.” She pulled the coat tight around her and apologized for not inviting me inside. “Next time you come by, I’ll have heat in the house,” she said in her soft singsong voice. Then she forced a smile and shut the door.